Blogging can change markets and nations, and that's my usual fare here. It also changes individual's lives. Through my association with the Winds of Change family, I've been privy to portions of such a story, that became dramatically public today. Congratulations, Joe and Jan!
The hitech business is immersive. We live in the swim, feel for the next wave. Reality is now, next quarter's launch, our guess at next year's hot thing, an attempt to plot the learning curve. We seldom look back. It can give you vertigo.
R6's piece gave me one of those flashes. Something like seventeen years ago I was sitting in rooms brainstorming and bullshitting with guys who eventually hatched Quicktime and a lot of the early multimedia tools. We dreamed that kids would play and learn with our mind toys.
Technologies grow up. So do kids. They've got Al Jazeera; we've got tankers with digicams and editing software. It may turn out to be an even match.
Kudos to Dan Colbert, CTO of venture investor NGEN Partners, who has written a guest column in this month's Smalltimes with the main title "Enough nanotalk". (It's not online yet, so I'm going to quote more liberally than usual.) Colbert, who has past experience as CEO of a carbon nanotube startup, says some things that have needed saying for a while. I'm going to cherry pick his text - you'll have to take my word that I haven't Dowdified the quotes, at least until the column is online:
...it's important to dispell the notion that there is some intrinsic value talking about all the disparate activities of nanotechnology together.
Nanotechnology is NOT an industry.
There are, however, materials, which is a large part of what people really mean when they use nanospeak.
Materials companies have traditionally been low margin, quick to commoditize and generally lacking pizzazz. These are not favored characteristics of venture-financed companies.
We are in the process of gaining increasing control and finesse over the structure of matter at the smallest scale where material properties emerge. This is where the authentic focus of discourse and activity is, and ought to be.
Materials were being characterized in the university, but... just what the materials might be useful for remained a mystery. As... Rick Smalley has said, "Bucky still doesn't have a job."
Much more work is required beyond discovery and characterization to bring a new material to commercial success.... The venture challenge, of course, is sorting out the likely winners from the losers.
(Colbert also carries off an extended allusion to my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel, but you'll have to RTWT for that.)
I would add a few elaborations to his observations. At this point, a winning nano-material is one that finds a specific applications market large enough to sustain and grow the company behind it, and where its differentiation is sufficient to overcome the low margin, no exit image of materials ventures. The diligent venture investor must carry through the entire analysis from basic science to applications market adoption.
There is no such thing as a nano-platform, a basic materials science toward which infrastructure investments may be pointed. Take as a contrast the world of silicon, where bringing in a plan for an improvement in yield, metrology, or tooling - to name a few - are all perfectly acceptable venture pitches. Silicon epitaxy really is a platform, with a multitude of applications. Much-touted generic nanotech - such as nanotubes and even more nanomachinery - lack the viable applications and market scale necessary to ignite a Moore's Law spiral of investment, adoption, and learning. Nanotech is not an industry, not a platform. It is a collection of materials applications conflated (cynics might say) to a sufficient scale to support conferences, newsletters, and consultants, not to mention grant writers.
For nanotech to really become an industry, it must find a way to achieve that sine qua non of the Valley: scale. Ironic, eh? I'll be back to that topic soon.
The Arabic blogosphere keeps spreading. Now there are enough Egyptian bloggers, in both English and Arabic, to have their own aggregator site. You'll observe that a number of them have managed to break Blogger to their will, and are posting Arabic on blogspot. For the monolingual, there's The Big Pharaoh, who's been on the blogroll for some time. Also new (to me) Mindbleed and 'From Cairo' are worth a look. For a view of the quandries in front of societies considering democracy after suppressing legitimate dissent for many years, see posts and ensuing discussion at Big Pharaoh and Mind Bleed.
This is, to be sure, a speculation until more such pitches are sent to bloggers who have a suitable target audience as readers.
[Translated (poorly) from the original German at Blogosfear, by Tim Oren with the aid of Google. (Update: See the comments for verification of the e-mail's origin at Ogilvy, and a fund discusssion on German/Brit/American slang.)
A note to the curious: This is an interesting post in its own right, but it's also part of an ongoing experiment in marking up translated blog posts. 'Show source' to see the XHMTL gobbledygook. Thanks to Lewy14. Update: Alignment hints moved into text body.
Update 2: Ogilvy seems to be ready to confess. Statement forthcoming. Follow the link for an ironic quote from the agency.
There aren't many days when the combination of Iraq and the legacy media yields a good belly laugh, but yesterday was one of them. Here's my favorite send up of the lot. Check your kid's toybox carefully. One of them could be an agent of Evil Bert, undermining your Homeland Security.